December 15, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Our society cares about its children, as it should. In some cases, that means the government steps in to take over parenting activities. Sadly, that’s sometimes necessary. Sometimes a child’s parents just aren’t up to the job. Sometimes they’re worse than merely unable; sometimes they’re intentionally brutal or neglectful. And sometimes they die or go to prison. In short, because we care about our children, we find it necessary to invest the government with the power, in certain situations, to enter family life and substitute its own decision making for that of parents. We all wish that weren’t necessary, but we all know that sometimes it is.
But, as our Founding Fathers understood, government has an unwholesome tendency to arrogate power to itself. It’s the old camel and tent thing. First the camel’s nose appears under the tent and before you know it, the whole animal is inside shoving the occupants out.
I’ve written a fair amount about the many ways in which our various levels of government use the reason/excuse of children’s welfare to increase their power at the expense of We the People. For example, I’ve noted on several occasions the dramatic expansion of marijuana laws in that very way. No, state legislatures haven’t changed their laws on pot, but their child welfare agencies, acting in concert with the police have done the job for them de facto.
Does a couple advocate for the decriminalization of pot possession? That’s their right under the First Amendment, but child protective services may well use it as a pretext to take away their children as was done in Idaho and again in Michigan.
Does a man get a state-granted license to use medical marijuana to treat his chronic back pain? That’s all perfectly legal under the laws of the State of Washington that, after all, was the one to issue him the license. But again child protective services used his legal activities as an excuse to take away his infant daughter. Read about it here.
What about the Russian couple in California who dared to assert their right to decide what medical treatment their six-month-old son would or would not receive? Their seeking a second opinion when one hospital counselled major surgery for the infant so angered that hospital that it brought down the wrath of child protective services and the police acting without a warrant.
There’s a lesson here: our fine and necessary desire to protect our children from harm has been appropriated by the state and turned against us. Pretty much any abuse of governmental power can be justified as necessary to protect children. There’s another lesson too: We can and will take your children from you. It may be for a few days; it may be forever, but we will come into your home and take your children from you. It matters not a whit how right you are, how good a parent; we don’t care what emotional trauma we cause your child. We will use your children to demonstrate our power to you.
In the end, that may be the most important lesson of all – the naked use of governmental power.
Here’s another case that is in some ways more outrageous than all the rest (CBS Local, 12/5/13). As before, the police used their uniform and badge in an exercise of power that plainly had no purpose apart from simply that – a demonstration of governmental power.
Landry Thompson is a 13-year-old student in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her passion is dancing and she had the opportunity, along with her teacher and dance partner, to travel to Houston to film a Hip Hop routine there – a wonderful opportunity for the girl.
But her parents wanted to be extra careful that there would be no misunderstanding on anyone’s part about who the three were and what they were doing. Landry’s dance partners are both adult men and, most tellingly, African-Americans. So Landry’s parents sent her off to Houston with 29-year-old Emmanuel Hurd and 22-year-old Josiah Kelly armed with a sheaf of documents explaining who she was, who the men were, what she was doing, that her parents knew about it all and agreed to what she was doing.
To no avail. The trio arrived in Houston late one night and, while stopped at a service station consulting a city map, caught the eye of a Houston police officer.
“Emmanuel had a letter signed by us, had every contact number they could’ve possibly needed, he had her insurance card, he had her original birth certificate, not a copy,” Landry’s mother told KHOU.
The Houston Police Department has a well-deserved reputation for racism, but apparently the officers felt a need to burnish it a bit, so, entirely without probable cause, they arrested the three dancers, sent Hurd and Kelly to county lockup and Thompson to Child Protective Services.
Houston Police are being accused of racial profiling after handcuffing and bringing a girl to Child Protective Services who was with her two dance partners — assuming she was a runaway.
“Are you aware your daughter is with two black men?” the officer asked the shocked parents of 13-year old Tulsa, Okla. Dancer Landry Thompson.
“‘Yes, I’m aware of that,’” Destiny Thompson, Landry’s mother, told KHOU-TV. “He called into questioning our parenting.”…
“Sir, I will dance for you right now,” Landry told police.
But police were untrusting of the trio and the corroborating story from her parents.
“[The officer] puts the handcuffs on very, very tight [and] throws me in the back and does the same to Josiah,” Hurd told ABC News. “All the while I’m looking at Landry. She’s terrified.”
So the police not only had the documents providing them everything they could possibly need to know - who the three were, what they were doing there and that the two men had the parents’ permission to accompany Landry to the video session. They also called the girl’s parents and got the information from the horse’s mouth: Yes, that’s our child; we know where she is, who she’s with and it’s all with our permission.
Still, the men went to jail and the girl to CPS.
Fortunately the travesty didn’t last long. I assume more sensible minds among the officers’ superiors prevailed. Possibly the novel concept of needing probable cause before arresting someone entered into it. Who knows? But after about six hours the three were once again free to go about their business.
As of now, the police are claiming the officers acted out of “an abundance of caution,” in detaining the three. That’s nonsense. Being a police officer doesn’t make you a free-roaming doer of good, righter of wrongs. You’re not Robin Hood or Batman just because you don’t wear the same outfits as the rest of us. You’re a state actor and, as such, restricted by state law and the U.S. Constitution in what you may do. One thing you’re required to have is probable cause to believe a person committed a criminal offense before you arrest someone. The Houston cops who arrested Hurd, Kelly and Thompson had not even a distant smell of probable cause.
So my guess is it’s lawsuit time again, an all-too-familiar situation for HPD. City taxpayers will pay for the racism of their employees.
But I would argue that racism is only part of the reason for this farce. As before, whatever else may have gone on, the core of the matter is the same old lesson I mentioned earlier: We have the power and we’ll exercise it whether you like it or not. Our excuse will be the protection of children.
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